Wednesday, May 24, 2017

If Monkeys Could Talk

*The following story is fiction. Mostly fiction...

My kid has this stuffed monkey. He sleeps with it every night. He found him at Walmart, my wife was shopping with him one day and took a wrong turn down the toy aisle. That’s a bad move, the toy aisle. Rookie mistake.

Our son threw a whopper of a fit over this monkey and Mom broke down. I didn’t see much special about him—the monkey, my kid is plenty special—he has a pull tail that plays a nursey rhyme I recognize but can’t name.

My son and this monkey. He takes it everywhere. Bathroom. Daycare. To the store. This monkey travels. The other night it had snowed, and the next day the sun warmed things up so that the streets shined black with salt and chemicals. My son was hopping over a curb when, splat, he dropped he monkey face down in a tar black puddle of grime. The kid was devastated. Crying about Patrick the monkey as I cleaned him up some with a Clorox wipe and fix him. But the wipes only managed to smear his face and belly and the more I wiped the more he smeared until he looked like a coal miner with a beard.

That was the worst. My wife was working late and it was just me and the kid and Patrick—my kid named the monkey Patrick—and I got this situation under control and stepped out into the living room. I was whipped from the trauma of parenting, and I was about to crack a well-deserved beer and turn on the game when I felt a draft. 

That’s when I saw it.

Patrick’s tail. The window as shut but I knew that tail anywhere. I leaped up and snatched the monkey, knowing I’d just seen him in bed before lights out.

He was cold in my hand. I looked to the hallway, then back to the monkey. Something swatted my hand away. “What the hell you think you’re doing?”

I’m pretty sure I screamed. Okay so I screamed, but Patrick was talking, with an Irish accent no less.
“Hey,” he whistled. “You don’t want to get involved. Let me go, okay?”

I rubbed my eyes and he was still there. “Let you go, where?”

“Anywhere,” he said, wiping at his cheek. Maybe it was remnants of today’s mishap, but he was trembling, terrified. This monkey had been to hell and back. “This gig, it’s too much. I need to bail.”


“You gonna sit here and repeat everything I say?”

“No, I just…”

“I can’t do it. Look at me. I used to have fur, this coat with a sheen to it. I played a lullaby and my smile drove the girls crazy. I was the only male monkey on the shelf. Then that lunatic son of yours comes along.” 

“He’s hardly a luna—”

“Look at me!”

I did. I saw his matted fur and deranged eyes. His tail hanging to the floor like an old rope. Today’s chemical bath hadn’t done him any favors, and that smile he spoke of was torn clean off at the edges.

“You see now?”

“Well,” I shrugged.

“Pull my tail.”

The sounds warbled out of a box that was visible through his threadbare skin and lost stuffing. The song was drunk, but the monkey thirsty.

“Now go pour that drink.”

I started to get up. “Beer?”


We set up at the table. Patrick drank bourbon like a champ. He wiped his face and began the story of how he was assembled in Mexico by a woman with strong hands and few teeth. How he came across the border on a box truck with a bobble doll named Sheila. “Sheila,” he said, his faded eyes mustering a glow. “She was something, kid. Really something.”


“Born and raised, Chico,” he said, knocking back another shot.

“But the name, the accent, the,,,"

“Drinking? Is that what you want to say? Try soaking up a few pounds of drool, get dropped in the toilet, see what it does for your sobriety, okay?”

“Okay, Patrick.”

“Okay, he mimicked. “And the dogs. Jesus, that pooch took my ear off.”

“We sewed it back on, Patrick.”

He set out his glass. I filled it to the top.


We talked it out. Patrick and I are all right these days. I look out for the guy. Bought a cute female monkey for my son. We look our for each other. Patrick tells me all the silly things my son said or did. And every now and then when the house is quiet we share a drink at the table.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Well, we’re off. Up and rolling on two wheels.

My little boy is riding a bike. And it’s somewhat of a shock, because I thought it would be summer before we were ready to take the training wheels off. But we have bigger kids in the neighborhood, and so our little man is inspired.
Good Luck! 

A few weeks back, we took him to a nice, soft rubber track at the nearby middle school. The idea here was to let him get the feel of being up on two wheels, see what it was all about. He made it maybe two times around, before my hand cramped up from being vice-gripped the backseat for support. At one point I managed to let go for roughly a nanosecond until he began to wobble in the turbulence.

It wasn’t long before he was done with it and wanted those training wheels back on. But it was about what I expected. 

Fast-forward to Friday, when I picked him up early from daycare. We had nothing but time. The sun was out and so we took the old trainers off again. It was completely a spur of the moment thing, because he’d been chasing the bigger kids up and down the street, watching them on their big mountain bikes, asking me about gears and kickstands and reflectors and handbrakes. The kid is thorough, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, he was up for giving it another try, so this time we headed down to the end of the street, to a small access road that was once gravel is now overgrown with grass. Or padding, as I saw it.

Actually, it was our neighbor's idea, he was out and saw us coming (my wife insisted on buying our son a bright yellow "bee" helmet complete with wings and eyes so we're sort of hard to miss) and suggested giving it a go down the hill. Again, I wasn’t expecting much, maybe a few feet of wobbling before crashing. But the little guy blew my mind. 

He got his legs going and peddling and made it ten, then twenty feet before veering into the higher grass where the bike teetered over like a feather on a pillow. 

This...was genius.

We did it again, then again and again and again, until the whole neighborhood was cheering him on. He was chugging along, ten, then twenty, then fifty yards as got the hang of it, even to the point where I was comfortable enough to let him go and stand back, basking in parental pride as he peddled along and stopped (sometimes more gracefully than others) to dismount without falling at all. 

It was pretty amazing. Really. Maybe one of the biggest moments as a parent. I can’t explain it, and no, I'm not going to be that dad, pushing him and all. But he was ready to ride, and it was infectious watching him get the hang of it. Yeah, I got into it.  

Now we've been back a few times, and yesterday he even rode the whole way home on the street. Sure, we've had a few spills and crashes. He gets frustrated at times. But he’s only four, and it’s a great start. 

Part of me feels useful too, because hey, I'm a product of the eighties, and this stuff is right up my alley. I've dusted off my bike and we cruise down the street. Me and the neighborhood kids have formed a biker gang. We do wheelies and call out to each other when a car's coming. I give my kid pointers, teach him to keep his eyes on what’s ahead, both hands on the wheel, his feet on the pedals. You know, do as I say, not as I do.

Let the good times roll.